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Courage is what it takes to overcome fear. Fear is an emotion appropriate to perceived risk. Thus, to exhibit courage one must both perceive a risk and proceed in spite of it.

Ivan Sutherland, Technology and Courage

Makes me considering something I posted over a year ago, a quote from Barry Lopez:

“They regarded the whalers with a mixture of ilira and kappia…. Ilira is the fear that accompanies awe; kappia is the fear in the face of unpredictable dangers. Watching a polar bear - ilira. Having to cross thin sea ice - kappia.”

More on moderation

If we consider a continuum:

abstinence -> moderation -> indulgence

It feels required to be directional, nothingness on the left, more than everything on the right. Indulgence is like not the right word. Over indulgence? Excess?

the more I consider this though, i think they are different control mechanisms. i find abstinence easy, moderation hard, and indulgence a mixed bag. still can’t find much science to dig around here. 

if you know of any, comment or email me, would you please? 

Moderation, Abstinence, Delayed Gratification

The latter two seem to have a lot of psych and behavioral studies, a great deal of discussion and interest. Abstinence plays into addiction studies. Delayed gratification studies were started by men with marshmallows in the caribbean. Though I often wonder if those studies are not studying the adults around the children more than the children themselves. Unless delayed gratification is expected to be nature, not nurture (citations with titles that imply this all seem to be dead links.)

What I can’t seem to find are studies on moderation, the piece that interests me more. 

Here is a question:

You are given one bar of chocolate every two weeks. how do you eat it?

The implication in most studies and conversations is that you eat a bit each day until you get the next one. I don’t know why this is assumed to be the norm. Nothing wrong, as far as I can see, with eating the entire thing on one day, then waiting for the next one. 

I do not think this fits the delayed gratification model, because in those studies if you delay you are given more, whereas here, if you delay, you are just doling out your chocolate. 

* so why the assumption that doling it out little by little is better than eating it all?

* why is this called bingeing, a pejorative term, I’d say

* why the assumption that if I binge, the absence of chocolate for the remaining days is going to be bothersome or difficult

Is moderation considered a normal behavior? I’d have to say with all of the behavioral economics and psych that I have read, that this is not what it seems humans are wired for. If this is a learned behavior, why do we prioritize this? control? containment? 

Progress Traps

Coined by Ronald Wright, in A Short History of Progress, I was introduced to this by Paul Kingsnorth. As defined by Wright, in Kingsnorth’s words: 

A progress trap is a short-term social or technological improvement that turns out in the longer term to be a backward step. By the time this is realized—if it ever is—it is too late to change course.

Listing out ones I can think of, and the list grows long, in my mind. Having just read The Science of Fear, and considering biases and familiarity and other ways in which humans fail to have ‘rational’ fears, by which I mean they are likely to happen, vs catastrophic oddities, I wonder if what I am considering (GMO food comes on top, and Round-up and Monsanto’s seeds a close second) are not progress traps. I cannot tell right now. 

Kingsnorth finds himself at the end of his article with five possible ways in which to step out of the stream of progress traps and the darkness he sees coming. What he can see, and I think perhaps Thackara would agree with him, are individual choices and local actions. There is no saving the world left anymore. Save yourself and the spaces around you as best you can, and hope there are others who will do the same. Shades of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

Here are Kingsnorth’s five considerations for his future: 

1. Withdraw

2. Preserve non-human life

3. Get your hands dirty

4. Insist that nature has a value beyond utility

5. Build refuges

Still, if I’m honest, I’ll have to concede that the critics may have been onto something in one sense. If you want human-scale living, you doubtless do need to look backward. If there was an age of human autonomy, it seems to me that it probably is behind us. It is certainly not ahead of us, or not for a very long time; not unless we change course, which we show no sign of wanting to do.

Paul Kingsnorth, Dark Ecology, in Orion Magazine

Neo-environmentalists, Ted Kaczynksi, the scythe, modernized poverty, and progress traps.  

Relative Ontologies

The Passport Project’s infographic is also all over the internet lately. [I can’t find their data or how they combined their sources to generate their correlations, so I am assuming it is correct.]

I wish there were additional information on the correlations they display. as well as what it was *not* correlated with. [and of course, always remember, correlation is not causation, repeat, like a mantra]

The dark spaces are as interesting as the light. The creators of this infographic chose income, human capital, creative class, and well-being. What about others? For example, student loan debt, obesity, or number of children? 

The US Map shows the lowest passport ownership in states that have the highest obesity ratings. [This is not on their site, but from my head.]

If we assume that no passport means no foreign travel, and that a significant portion of overseas travel is by airplane, perhaps there is a correlation between girth and seat size on airplanes. Perhaps those who do not fit well in plane seats do not bother with passports. 

I seem to be having data issues lately. So often they seem skewed or presented to give an impression that is only part of the story. So, additional data things. US Population is listed, but does this include American citizens as well as non-citizens? Are the passports issued new passports or all passports including renewals or replacements? 

The infographic is lovely, but it leaves me with more questions than answers. 

Is it really the cost of travel, or as implied here, the cost of a passport, that keeps the young from traveling? Perhaps it is also the actual cost of travel, or the need to have a job, pay rent, pay off student loans. 

Of Suicide, Homicide and Combat

A Gothamist article surmises that this year more New Yorkers may die of suicide than homicide. The final numbers are not in. In a city used to homicide, this seems surprising, even though the Gothamist says the NYC suicide rate is lower than the national average. 

This year the suicide rate of soldiers will out number the combat deaths, at least for active duty and reservists in the Army, as reported by CNS news*.

A world in which US military in Afghanistan and NYC deaths are more likely to be suicide than homicide or combat? This must be telling us something, no? 

*[I have no data on army vs other armed forces, the Marines would be the other branch to want in this data. Also, the data sources listed in the arcticle don’t provide the information I’d expect, to back up the articles points.]

if you want data, here’s what i was looking at:




Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at—and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.

—Peter F. Drucker, Managing Oneself, originally published in the HBR 1999.

Managing Oneself

Peter Drucker’s Managing Oneself, from the Harvard Business Review Classics imprint, is worth a read, and a re-read, every now and again, when you lose your way. 

It’s a small book, in dimensions and in pages (55).

He advises one to know one’s strengths, know how one performs, how one learns, to know one’s values, where one belongs, how one contributes, and how to be responsible for relationships. 

He advises that once you know your strengths, you make them stronger. Understand you have weaknesses and what they are, but leave them be, you won’t ever be good at them, but you can become better at what you are good at. A bit unorthodox these days, where we are not supposed to be bad at anything in a work environment, and in a large corporate environment with 360 and peer reviews, you are generally told to work on your weak spots, not make your strong spots spectacular. 

It’s a great book for work, but also for life. 


I’ve read an enormous number of books this year. 

In the past three months, I’ve read five or six books each week. They are not all new, I suspect, but I do not know when they are from. Very few stick out, isn’t that sad? Here are two that do: 

The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng. This may be my favorite novel I read this year. (Coincidentally, one of the few I can remember reading. I know there were others though, but I gave them all away.)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo. I didn’t finish this book. It wasn’t interesting enough for me to care how it ended. The rough edge pages also bother me, and may have added to my lack of completion. People *love* this book.  It reminds me of my inability to finish a Jennifer Egan novel.  Though perhaps that is different. Boo’s book is lovely, all I can suggest is that I have read so much history and literature from India and about India that the story is a story I know?